Monday, December 11, 2017

Lehi's Anguish

In Nephi’s account of his family’s journey and challenges we get a small glimpse of the suffering and anguish that Lehi felt because of the rebelliousness of Laman and Lemuel.  This is clear from the very beginning.  After their made their initial departure into the wilderness, Lehi tried to teach his sons with deep sincerity.  To Laman he exclaimed, “O that thou mightest be like unto this river, continually running into the fountain of all righteousness!”  To Lemuel he said with similar earnestness, “O that thou mightest be like unto this valley, firm and steadfast, and immovable in keeping the commandments of the Lord!” (1 Nephi 2:9-10).  At the same location he had his vision of the tree of life, and the takeaway from the whole dream was all centered around Laman and Lemuel: “And it came to pass after my father had spoken all the words of his dream or vision, which were many, he said unto us, because of these things which he saw in a vision, he exceedingly feared for Laman and Lemuel; yea, he feared lest they should be cast off from the presence of the Lord” (1 Nephi 8:36).  He clearly suffered great anxiety because of his concern for their eternal welfare. 

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Faith, Hope, and Charity

Paul wrote in his famous epistle about charity, “And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity” (1 Corinthians 13:13).  I believe this is the only reference to these three Christian virtues as a group in the Bible, but the scriptures of the Restoration affirm their special relationship to each other and the importance for us to acquire them today.  To be a true follower of Jesus Christ, we must be seeking to develop these three “interlacing virtues” as Elder Wong called them.     

Saturday, December 9, 2017

The Song of the Righteous

Last night I was thrilled to be able to attend the Piano Guys concert in Salt Lake City with my wife and two oldest children.  I especially appreciated the earnest encouragement that the cello player, Steven Nelson, gave to the youth in the audience who were learning instruments.  He spoke about the challenges of practicing an instrument and the temptation that easily comes to quit because it is hard.  Earnestly encouraging them to stick with practicing, he told them that if they would persevere, eventually the time would come when they were playing their instrument that they would feel like they were flying.  Having spent countless hours in my youth practicing the piano, and having felt at moments an exhilaration playing the songs I worked so hard to master, I think I understand exactly what he meant. 

Friday, December 8, 2017

King Cobras in the Millennium

My six-year-old son has recently been very interested in king cobra snakes which live in India.  He watched a Wild Kratts show which taught him a little about the snake, and now he really wants to be able to see one in India.  But he also knows that they are very dangerous to humans.  With that in his mind, he was especially excited one morning when he was reading scriptures with my wife and they came across this verse in the Book of Mormon: “And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice’s den” (2 Nephi 21:8).  The asp is a venomous snake, potentially an Egyptian cobra, and the cockatrice is either a legendary monster or some kind of venomous snake.  My wife explained to my son that this was a prophecy about the Millennium when animals would be peaceful and that kids would even be able to play with snakes without getting hurt.  She also taught him that this would happen after Jesus returns at the Second Coming.  He immediately announced that after the Savior comes, he would be on his way to India!

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Notwithstanding All Persecution

One of the themes that we see throughout many scriptures is the Lord’s condemnation of those who mistreat the prophets.  One of the most famous lamentations came shortly before He was—the greatest of all prophets—killed by His own people: "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!" (Matt 23:37)  In a similar tone He had given one of His most stinging rebukes of the people when He gave the parable of the wicked husbandmen.  When the householder sent back his servants—symbolizing the prophets—"the husbandmen took his servants, and beat one, and killed another, and stoned another.”  Their fate was described in these grim terms, “He will miserably destroy those wicked men, and will let out his vineyard unto other husbandmen” (Matt. 21:35, 41).  When we reject His prophets, we are on shaky ground with the Lord.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

A Missionary as Nephi of Old

In D&C 33 the Lord called Ezra Thayre and Northrop Sweet to be missionaries.  He said, "Ye are called to lift up your voices as with the sound of a trump, to declare my gospel unto a crooked and perverse generation. For behold, the field is white already to harvest; and it is the eleventh hour, and the last time that I shall call laborers into my vineyard."  The Lord then gave an interesting promise to them: "Open your mouths and they shall be filled, and you shall become even as Nephi of old, who journeyed from Jerusalem in the wilderness" (D&C 33:2-3, 8).  What strikes me as unexpected is that we don't typically think of Nephi (the son of Lehi) as an example of a great missionary in the Book of Mormon.  I would have expected that the Lord said that they would become as Ammon or Alma or Nephi the son of Helaman or Samuel the Lamanite.  But He didn't; he used Nephi as the one we should hope to be like when preaching the gospel.  So why was Nephi chosen as the example par excellence of a missionary? 

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

With All Long-Suffering

I was touched by this verse that I read today in the Book of Mormon: “Wherefore, the prophets, and the priests, and the teachers, did labor diligently, exhorting with all long-suffering the people to diligence; teaching the law of Moses, and the intent for which it was given; persuading them to look forward unto the Messiah, and believe in him to come as though he already was” (Jarom 1:11).  What caught my attention was this description that the prophets exhorted the people with “all long-suffering”.  Enos told us in the previous book that the people were very stiffnecked and the reminders of “death, and the duration of eternity, and the judgments and the power of God” would keep them in the fear of the Lord (Enos 1:23).  So this was a somewhat hard hearted people who had to be constantly reminded and prodded and encouraged to keep the commandments and remember the Lord.  And yet their prophets gave them encouragement with “all long-suffering,” showing an incredible patience towards those who were hard to correct.  They taught and reminded and worked with the people, doing all they could to help bring about real repentance.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Rejoice Upon the Hills

There is an interesting phrase in the Doctrine and Covenants about Zion that is repeated a few times.  In a revelation in 1830 the Lord said to Joseph and Sidney Rigdon, "Keep all the commandments and covenants by which ye are bound; and I will cause the heavens to shake for your good, and Satan shall tremble and Zion shall rejoice upon the hills and flourish" (D&C 35:24).  The next month to James Covel the Lord said, "Thou art called to labor in my vineyard, and to build up my church, and to bring forth Zion, that it may rejoice upon the hills and flourish" (D&C 39:13).  A few months later in May of 1831 to Sidney Rigdon, Parley Pratt, and Leman Copley the Lord said again, "Zion shall flourish upon the hills and rejoice upon the mountains, and shall be assembled together unto the place which I have appointed" (D&C 49:25).  So what does it mean for Zion to "flourish on the hills" or "rejoice upon the hills"?  What do hills have to do with Zion, and what is this meant to symbolize?    

Sunday, December 3, 2017

The Book of Mormon's Promise of Help

One of the questions that President Nelson asked in his last conference talk about the Book of Mormon was this: “What would your life be like without the Book of Mormon? …. What would you not have?”  As I thought today about what I would not have without the Book of Mormon, one of my answers was this: confidence in the power of the Lord to help me in my own challenges.  All throughout the Book of Mormon we see examples of how the Lord helped the faithful overcome very difficult challenges.  Usually He doesn’t take away the challenge but rather empowers people to work through their difficulties successfully.  For example, when Alma went face to face in combat with the wicked Amlici, he prayed, “O Lord, have mercy and spare my life, that I may be an instrument in thy hands to save and preserve this people.”  We read that “when Alma had said these words he contended again with Amlici; and he was strengthened, insomuch that he slew Amlici with the sword” (Alma 2:30, 31).  Because of his faith the Lord gave Alma the strength he needed to defeat Amlici and preserve the freedoms of his people.  The Book of Mormon teaches over and over that as we trust in the Lord and exercise faith, he will strengthen us to successfully navigate our individual challenges. 

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Well of Living Water

One of the reasons that I’m grateful for fasting is because it makes me thirsty.  I say that only half in jest; I am indeed grateful for the reminder of how lucky I am to have water to drink essentially whenever I want it.  So much of the world does not have consistent access to clean water.  The Light the World challenge for today reminded me of this in its encouragement to help give water to those without ready access.  It suggests that “access to clean water has the single greatest impact on global poverty.”  In that theme, this week I was impressed by this video and article about the Village Drill that I found.  This simple, transportable drill was developed by BYU students to drill holes in remote villages in Africa to provide a sustainable and clean water source.  So far it has helped drill 1200 water wells in the past six years and is making an impressive on numerous villages.